On the Monday after Thanksgiving, I flew back to Houston with three dozen cookies carefully tucked in a padded section of my purse. When I got home, I opened the cookie bags to find more than half of them crumbled. Surprise!
NOT my smartest move. But neither was baking cookies to be shipped off as part of the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap on a Sunday when post offices aren’t open the day before flying home. Or waiting to the last minute to decide what kind of cookies to make. Because I wanted to bake the best cookies ever and then baked up a bunch of cookies that looked like dirty sand. Way to go, Erika.
So let’s reminisce about some fun times! This time last year, friendship seeds were planted during the Cookie Swap which came to fruition over doughnuts in Austin. After I received cookies from the lovely Melissa of Sterling & Oats and we exchanged a series of admiring blog comments, we met up one weekend when Erik and I took a road trip to Austin. She got the coconut, Erik and I split the fattiest chocolate doughnut in existence, and we talked about blogging, baking, cake, her boyfriend’s art, Austin and more. It was so fun! The wonders of the interwebs amaze me sometimes.
This year, I sent cookies to:
All of these ladies are so talented and awesome! Joanne has all these recipes I’m dying to try (goat cheese pepper and honey popovers?!) AND she lives in NYC AND runs marathons AND she’s getting her MD/PhD AND her blog is SUPER CUTE *keels over* Awesome factor is off the charts. Madison is pretty much the cutest food blogger you’ll ever meet, living my dream job as a food editor. I adore her No Fat Talk Tuesday series. Yay for healthy body image talk! And Allie. Oh Allie. This minion cake will forever steal my heart. Counting down the seconds until I have an opportunity to make it!
I received these beautiful orange zest shortbread cookies from Devangi at Pistachio Doughnut. So dense and tasty! They’ve been my 3 p.m. pick-me-up for the past few weeks—thanks Devangi!
I also got some salted almond toffee cookies from Kinsey Cooks. Omg DIE. So good!!
(I don’t know where the last batch is but it’s okay! I’ve had cake for breakfast this week so I’m clearly not deprived.) AND some mandelbrot from Allison at The Baking Year, recipe courtesy of her grandma. That was possibly the best package I will ever receive since she stuffed it with much-needed Christmas sprinkles + candy + a sweet note! Such amazing generosity.
Back to the dirty sand cookies. In the end—in a frenzy of desperation—I decided to forego the healthy cookie idea and go full-fat with a mashup of classic holiday cookies (shortbread) and the classic ingredients from some Momofuku recipes (pretzels, potato chips, marshmallows, cornflakes and chocolate.) They received solid—not rave—reviews from my cousinly sous chefs, but it’s hard to get rave out of them in the first place. I thought they were pretty darn addictive. I mean, how could they not be with brown butter and chocolate and sugar and potato chips??
I was riffing off a recipe for butter pecan shortbread (I had a lot of ground pecans to use up) and because it called for SO many ground pecans, which are super buttery, I figured I could nearly double the recipe using the same amount of butter for a single batch + add all my extra add-ins. Nope. This made the dough SUPER crumbly and hard to hold together (not enough liquid, too many dry ingredients).
My only solution at this point is to lessen the amount of mix-ins and add a little milk if you try these, to help hold the dough together. I used close to 3 cups of mix-ins, but I suggest you use no more than 1.5 cups.
Almost-soft shortbread cookies with compost-cookie like mix-ins.
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 2.5 cups white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
- 2 cups pecans, ground into flour
- 2.5 teaspoons vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt
- 1.5 cups mix-ins: potato chips, pretzel thins, cornflakes, marshmallows, chopped bittersweet chocolate, etc.
- milk, as needed
_Make the dough:_In a large saucepan, brown the butter. Add the sugar through salt and stir until a smooth dough forms. Fold in your mix-ins and stir until evenly incorporated. Add a tablespoon or three of milk if the batter is too dry to hold together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and freeze for 20 minutes.
Shape and bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
When I need to make a specific number of cookies, I’ll divide the dough into chunks and designate each chunk for a certain number of cookies. For this batch, I divided the mass of dough into three balls. From there, I divided each third of dough into two, and then two again. So each little ball of dough needed to make three cookies to equal 36 cookies total.
If you don’t like dough division, I’d recommend using a tablespoon to measure out scant tablespoons of dough for each cookie. Because I stuffed so many mix-ins to the dough, this dough was on the dry side and extremely prone to cracking, so each cookie took a bit of coaxing to make a smooth shape. These will hardly spread, so I flattened each ball of dough to about 1/2-inch thickness and then molded the edges with my fingers until they smoothed out.
Place on a cookie sheet about two inches apart—again, they won’t spread, so you could theoretically put them closer together. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until edges are browned and the tops aren’t squishy-soft. You should easily be able to pry one off the sheet with a spatula.
Adapted from here.
Andddd these are the cookies I made last year!
And here are some more healthy-ish cookie ideas. Are you doing any cookie swapping this year? What are you making?
Spent grain cookies (know any beer brewers? Relieve them of some of their spent grain for these!):